Phoenix Suns’ Monte Williams finishes second in league media vote
New York • Tom Thibodeau brought the New York Knicks back to the playoffs, leading the team to their second best record in 20 years.
And in the eyes of voters, this coaching job was the best in the NBA.
Thibodeau was revealed Monday as the NBA’s Coach of the Year for 2020-21, as determined by a global panel of 100 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league. The Knicks have gone 41-31 this season, then fell to Atlanta in five games in the first round of the playoffs.
It was the tightest ballot since this version of voting was introduced 19 years ago. Thibodeau got 43 first place votes and finished with 351 points overall, while Phoenix’s Monty Williams actually got more first place votes – he got 45 – but finished with 340 points.
“Every time you get an award like this I’m obviously honored,” Thibodeau said on the television show announcing the results. “But it’s more a reflection of our group and our organization.
It was the second time Thibodeau had won the award; he also got it in 2011, his first season with the Chicago Bulls. And another freshman turnaround in New York City won him the trophy for the second time.
Quin Snyder of Utah was third and got 10 of the remaining 12 votes for first place. Doc Rivers of Philadelphia was fourth, securing the other two first-place votes. Nate McMillan of Atlanta was fifth, Steve Nash of Brooklyn sixth and Michael Malone of Denver seventh.
The Knicks were 41-31 this season, and that 0.569 winning percentage is the eighth lowest for a coach of the year since the award was first presented in 1963. But the work Thibodeau has done in of his first season in New York was exceptional in every way, leading the Knicks to their first playoff spot since 2013 and their second best record in the past 20 years.
On the TNT show announcing the award, Thibodeau spoke about how he grew up as a Knicks fan at the time which included Willis Reed and Walt Frazier, how his coaching style was influenced in part by others. having deep ties to the Knicks – like Rivers and Jeff Van Gundy – and how players on that New York team like Derrick Rose also deserved a lot of credit. Rose was with Thibodeau when he won the award in Chicago ten years ago.
“There were so many people who helped me along the way,” said Thibodeau. “I was probably the luckiest guy in the world.”
This is the second major award for the Knicks this season, after Julius Randle won the Most Improved Player title. Also previously announced, Jordan Clarkson of Utah won the sixth man of the year.
The title of MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year has yet to be announced.
The finalists for Defensive Player of the Year are Rudy Gobert of Utah, Draymond Green of Golden State and Ben Simmons of Philadelphia. The MVP finalists are finalists Nikola Jokic of Denver, Stephen Curry of Golden State and Joel Embiid of Philadelphia. And the finalists for Rookie of the Year are LaMelo Ball of Charlotte, Anthony Edwards of Minnesota and Tyrese Haliburton of Sacramento.
Thibodeau’s victory continues a somewhat strange trend. Over the past 49 seasons, there have only been three instances where the Coach of the Year also won the NBA title that same season – Phil Jackson did so with Chicago in 1996 and Gregg Popovich with San Antonio in. 2003 and 2014.
Thibodeau is the third coach to win the award as a Knicks coach, joining Red Holzman in 1970 and Pat Riley in 1993. He is the 10th to win the award on multiple occasions and the eighth to win with multiple franchises.
Coaches were awarded five points for each first place vote, three points for each second place vote and one point for each third place vote. Thibodeau got 42 second place votes and 10 third place votes; Williams got 32 votes for second place and 19 votes for third place. Williams was excluded from four ballots, Thibodeau was excluded from five.